On December 13, 2013, the Only Love Project’s Bill Murphy (BM) called Louis St. August (LSA), vocalist for the legendary Boston-area melodic-rock band MASS.
The transcript of our conversation is printed below. Enjoy.
And thanks again, Louis!
BM: Is this Louis?
LSA: Yes, it is.
BM: Louis, this is Bill Murphy calling.
LSA: Hey Bill, how are you?
BM: Doing great. How are you?
LSA: I’m good, thanks. How is it over there in, where are you living – Ohio?
BM: Michigan, Grand Rapids.
LSA: Michigan, Michigan.
LSA: So you must be experiencing the cold weather as we are here in Boston.
BM: [laughs] I don’t know what you’ve had in Boston, but I know what we’ve had throughout the Midwest here. It hasn’t been pretty. You guys having the same kind of crappy weather?
LSA: We are. It’s been little flurries, it’s been very cold, in the 20s, and we’re expecting a little snowstorm tomorrow, 8-10 inches, or 8-12 they’re predicting.
LSA: Yeah, everybody’s going to run out to the stores and buy that milk and bread because the end of the world is coming. [laughs]
LSA: Thank you. Thank you so much. Yeah, we’ve chatted quite a bit on Facebook, and if I recall maybe back in MySpace days.
BM: Yes. Yep.
LSA: I think, if I remember correctly. I try to remember everybody, but it’s kinda hard.
BM: [laughs] Well, I appreciate it. I approached you for an interview for The Only Love Project because of your posts on Facebook. Everything about you seems so positive. Same for your band. So, I thought you’d be a great candidate to share that with people.
LSA: Thank you.
BM: The first question is, Briefly tell us about your background. What would you like others to know about you?
LSA: Well, I guess this: I’m an only child born in the Sixties to a loving Catholic family. At a very early age, around four, I knew music was going to be a very big part of my life, and it has. That’s about it.
BM: [laughs] So between the age of four and now, you left out a big chunk. You guys [the band MASS] have released seven albums.
LSA: Oh gosh, you wanna talk about MASS?
BM: [Laughs] Not yet. We’ll save that. Next question: Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
LSA: Definitely. Yes. I do. I think that all humans are spiritual in some capacity, and that’s what separates us from being a cow or some other animal. Although most animals behave more loving than some humans. But, yes, definitely.
BM: Next question: Many religious traditions speak of the power and value of love. For example, the Dhammapada says, “Only love dispels hate.” The Bible says, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another.” What, if anything, do those words mean to you?
LSA: I think, Buddha’s teaching, I think it’s very simple. I think what he’s saying there is just, only love can conquer evil. And the commandment, Jesus is saying, he’d just like us to love each other as he loved us. He loved us so much he laid down his life for us. That’s what God is all about: love.
BM: Have you ever been tested on that, by the way?
LSA: No. No I haven’t.
BM: That kind of love doesn’t come along very often. Totally self sacrificial.
LSA: I agree. I agree.
BM: What role can love play in the world today?
LSA: Well, in the world today, I think love can open doors, I think it can knock down walls, it can penetrate the enemy, it can feed the hungry, it can heal the sick. You know, it can heal broken hearts. I think John Lennon said it best, “All you need is love. Love is all you need.” It’s kind of a philosophy that I go by, and I kind of look on the brightest side of life, that’s why you’ll see on some of my posts, positive, I always try to look for the good things and keep away from some of the negativity of the world.
BM: What stops people from being more loving and compassionate?
LSA: In my opinion, some of it may just be ignorance to what, how someone else may feel. Or selfishness. For others it could be just their upbringing, their surroundings, their environment. There are so many reasons, I’ll never understand.
BM: [laughs] Do you have recommendations regarding how someone might cultivate a spirit of love over the long term, but also put love into action right now, so that they can make a positive difference right away?
LSA: I just believe the best way is by leading by example. The way you would like to be treated. Love others the way you would like to be loved. Teach this to your children, and in return, they’ll teach it to theirs, and so on, and so on.
BM: Who do you look up to most when you think of the power of love?
LSA: Personally, I look up to my mother. I think she was a loving, caring person, and she gave a lot of that to me. I learned a lot from her. Spiritually, it would be Jesus. Those are my two.
BM: Given what you said about parents, do you think it’s critical that parents teach their children to be the example you talked about?
LSA: Yes, absolutely. I believe so. I think that children see from a very early age how we act towards each other, me and my wife, how we act, and that’s how they’re gonna grow up, that’s how they’re gonna act when they get married, how they’re gonna treat their spouses, how they’re gonna treat their friends, how they’re gonna treat their family. Crosby, Stills, & Nash’s song “Teach Your Children” is correct. Teach the kids, and they’ll pass it on.
BM: Couple of questions, then, about the music industry itself. How do you stay positive being in the music business, with all of its ups and downs, ins and outs?
LSA: I just look at it and say no matter what God or Jesus has planned for me, I’m just happy with what I’ve accomplished. I haven’t accomplished many things, but what I have, I’m grateful and I’m thankful for what I’ve got. I’ve been able to do seven albums. I’ve been able to play with the same guys for so many years and to write songs that I think are pretty good, and I’ve gotten to meet a lot of nice people and play a lot of nice shows. And I’ve been asked to do other musical things with other people, and I feel blessed and just honored to be asked by some of these people. And I think it’s definitely God. He brings some of these people into my life for a reason, and it is the reason I’ve gone this far or haven’t gone far enough, it’s his plan. It’s really his plan, and I’m just thankful, and that’s how I stay positive. Sure, sometimes I get down, like we all do, but I pick myself up and move on to something else, and it brings joy to me.
BM: When you think back on all of the songs you’ve written, is there one or two that you think really stand out as a good example of positivity or love? Or, to look at it another way, What song are you most proud of with MASS?
LSA: That’s a good question, because you know what, I love them all. Everybody asks, “What’s your favorite record, what’s your favorite album?” They all have a little bit of me in that album. A lot of my lyrics are autobiographical, so something would happen in my life or something that happened in the band’s life, or something around us, so every time I think about New Birth [first album, 1985]. I think about us in that ’85 recording that, and everything that happened. But as far as a song, one particular song, it’s tough. Positive song, maybe “Do You Love Me” [from New Birth. official video at bottom of interview]. A lot of people enjoy that song. On Voices in the Night [third album, 1989] it’s probably “A Chance to Love” or “Call Out Your Name.” On the new album [Sea of Black, 2010], I think a lot of people like “Till We Meet Again.” I think they can relate to that, to that song, I think it’s kind of a positive message, that we’ll meet again. You may have lost a loved one here, but I feel that you’ll be reconnected one day. So I’d say those three or four songs. You know, when I hang up with you, I’ll probably think of two, three more, and think, “Gee, why didn’t I say that one?”
LSA: When you’ve written 100 songs over the course of a career, a lot of people know those kind of 12 songs that are on those seven albums, but we also have many, many songs that we’ve written that are on demo that have never made it to the record, that just kind of got pushed to the wayside, because we just didn’t pick it, or we got sick of playing it. Maybe we didn’t make the right decision.
LSA: That’s what happens, you know, we’ll write a song and it sounds great, we’ll like that song, and then we’ll write a new song, and we’ll like the new song better than that one, but who’s to say that that one’s better than the other one? So it’s tough.
BM: Well, here’s the last question: Do you have anything you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?
LSA: Just thank you. Thank you for taking your time out and inviting me to do the interview for The Only Love Project. I think it’s great. You sent me the link and I read a little bit. I think it’s great. Keep up the great work. If people want to check out our music or check out more about Mass, obviously, they can check out the website. It’s MassRocks. hope to see you some day, and your wife. You’re gonna have your poor wife working on this, typing away. So I wanna say hello to her and thank her for me. And maybe one day we can go out for a drink, before we shrivel up and die here. [laughs]
LSA: Yes, we’re hoping for 2014. It just seems, we have about five or six tunes, we get together and we write a few more tunes, and it just seems like something, if something comes up, we get offered a show, or somebody has to do something in the studio, and it gets prolonged. But yes, our goal is to write it this winter, and get a new album out by 2014.
LSA: We really wanted to get it out last year, but we just couldn’t. So we’ll start fresh after the Christmas holiday.
BM: Have a merry Christmas, Louis. I appreciate your time.
LSA: Merry Christmas to you, Mr. Murphy. Bill, we’ll talk to you soon. Thank you.
Below is the official video clip for “Do You Love Me,” released in the mid 1980s.
NOTE: All photos (except album covers) courtesy of Louis St. August.